TV Ads Financed With Secret Money Attack Paul On Day 1 Of Presidential Bid : It's All Politics As Sen. Rand Paul declares for the GOP presidential nomination, a secret money group called the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America attacks him as a weak protector in foreign policy.

TV Ads Financed With Secret Money Attack Paul On Day 1 Of Presidential Bid

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The 2016 presidential race is now underway, and the attack ads are back. When Republican candidate Rand Paul made it official yesterday, he was instantly greeted with a TV spot calling him, quote, "wrong and dangerous on Iran." And who was paying for that ad is a secret. NPR's Peter Overby has more.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Just a month ago, Senator Rand Paul joined 46 other Senate Republicans as they signed a letter to leaders of the Islamic Republic. The senators threatened tougher treatment than Iran might get from President Obama in negotiations on a nuclear arms control agreement. Paul's signature aside, yesterday this went on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Rand Paul supports Obama's negotiations with Iran. And he doesn't understand the threat.

OVERBY: The punch line...

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous. Tell him to stop siding with Obama because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster.

OVERBY: The last shot - a mushroom cloud. The ad comes from the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, or FSPA, which is a 501(c)(4) secret money group. It doesn't have to disclose its donors. Its press secretary declined an interview request. Secret money groups are proliferating in American election campaigns. FSPA said its ad is airing in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. They're the first four states on the Republican primary calendar.

There are two noteworthy things about this new ad. First, it comes as a surprise assault on an emerging candidate. Second, it accuses the candidate of betraying American interests. You could say Rand Paul got swift-boated, just like John Kerry.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: He dishonored his country. He most certainly did.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I served with John Kerry. John Kerry cannot be trusted.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Swift Boat for Veterans for Truth is...

OVERBY: The Swift Boat Veterans group derailed Kerry's campaign in 2004, just as he was about to accept the Democratic presidential nomination. An architect of the Swift Boat ads, consultant Rick Reed, is now FSPA's president. The Paul campaign struck back, calling the ads false and the group part of the Washington machine. It said Paul does want a deal that ends Iran's nuclear ambitions, and he wants Congress to vote on it. Erika Franklin Fowler is a director of the Wesleyan Media Project, a college consortium that tracks political advertising.

ERIKA FRANKLIN FOWLER: When a candidate airs an attack, they obviously suffer some backlash. When an interest group does it, it's harder for anyone to hold the group accountable in the same way.

OVERBY: She says it's a sign of what we'll see this spring and summer.

FOWLER: Which is, one, a lot of interest groups getting involved early, also, a lot of negativity. We shouldn't expect that to go away in any way, shape or form. And you can bet that there are a number of candidates that will face some opposition as they enter.

OVERBY: There's no sign of which candidate the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America might support. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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